The Stomach-Turning State of Restaurant Labor – And How We’ll Help


As consumers get hungrier for dining in each restaurant category, the kitchens are beginning to starve. Thanks to a strong economy and rising levels of disposable income, growth in the restaurant industry has been booming as consumers become less price sensitive with their meal selections. Meanwhile, teen involvement in the labor force has continued to decline, while jobs in the restaurant industry are currently growing at 2x the rate of the population (Abrams & Gebeloff – New York Times).

…So what does this mean for recruitment within the industry?

It’s forcing brands to get creative to compete for and retain available talent

With the cost of replacing one hourly restaurant employee exceeding $5,000, retention couldn’t be any more important. Companies like Chipotle, Starbucks, Chick-fil-a, and McDonald’s aren’t just giving out perks like free soft drinks during a shift… They’re investing in their employees’ futures. Starbucks has been offering tuition assistance to cover the cost of a college degree, while McDonald’s recently launched a career education app specifically designed for its employees. Of course, the app wouldn’t be complete without its “digital guide bot named ‘Kai’ that can answer questions 24/7 and provide research-based advice” (Ben Coley – QSR Magazine).

Prospective and current employees wield a lot of bargaining power

Since unemployment is at an all-time low, the job pool for potential candidates is also low. Gone are the days of prospects spending hours filling out multiple job applications and hoping for one restaurant to call them back for an interview. Many times, interviews are done on the spot and, in some cases, the restaurant hopes to start training the same day. Want to set your own hours? No problem! Looking for overtime? Even better! And guess what? If the new employee isn’t totally satisfied with their role, they can start at a new job tomorrow.

Brands are increasingly finding ways to reduce human labor and interaction

With tools like online ordering, self-serve ordering kiosks, and on-table tablets to process payments, human interaction within the industry is beginning to decline. Not only do each of these innovations decrease labor costs but, in some instances, they actually eliminate job roles altogether. New technology on the horizon will continue to contribute to this trend, like leveraging AI and voice technology to take your order at a drive-thru. Fast forward 50 years, and will my McDouble be ordered and prepared without any human assistance? Will restaurants even contain employees on-site? Time will tell what the future of labor in the restaurant industry holds.

The labor crisis won’t be going away anytime soon, but with advances in digital technology and targeting, many tactics are available to build a strong recruitment campaign. Our agency has helped clients in the restaurant industry stand out by utilizing tactics like competitive geo-fence targeting. Using dwell time, we have the targeting capabilities to determine which people within a given restaurant location are employees. We then create an audience pool of the competition’s employees, and serve them custom digital display banners or videos across all of their devices. Geographic targeting is so accurate, we can actually determine an employee’s specific job within the restaurant based on their dwell time (kitchen vs. bar), and serve even more targeted ads.

If you’re interested in learning more about how our agency is giving our clients a leg up in the battle of recruitment, we’d love to hear from you. Give us a call @ 614-888-7771, or send us an email @ [email protected]


Abrams & Gebeloff – New York Times:

Ben Coley – QSR Magazine: